10 Sports Homecomings


In the era of free agency and constant player movement, some athletes are always looking for the next big payday. For some though, there will always be a tie to the place where it all began and a desire to go back home. This morning we woke to the news that Dwayne Wade would be returning to his original NBA team where he played the bulk of his career and won three titles. It got us thinking about some of the other nostalgic returns we have seen in the last few years.

Jarryd Hayne to Parramatta

After a few years in the wilderness testing out the NFL and Rugby 7’s, Hayne returned to his strongest sport in rugby league. The thing is, seeing him in anything other than a Parramatta Eels uniform just didn’t look right and while he had some great moments on the Glitter Strip, an offseason move back to Parramatta brought him back to where he felt like he belonged. Hayne’s lone meeting with the Titans this year will be a Parramatta home game in early August. The move might have cost him a few friends in the process but if he can produce highlights like he did during his first stint with the Eels then some might be won back in due course.

Garry Ablett to Geelong

Another player returning home after spending a few years living on the Gold Coast is future Hall of Famer Gary Ablett Jr, who next month will make what is bound to be a triumphant return to GMHBA Stadium for a farewell tour. Having moved to the Suns in their debut season Ablett claimed his second Brownlow Medal in 2013 before injuries plagued the remainder of his time there. A return to the Cats has been on the cards for some time with Ablett wanting to move for family reasons however it took a good twelve months for the deal to finally go through. His first two games back are at the MCG before Round 4 when he goes back in front of the home fans.

Wayne Rooney to Everton

A native of Liverpool, Rooney joined the Everton academy at age 9, making his Premier League debut at age 16. His instant impact and huge potential caught the eye of Manchester United, moving there in 2004. After 13 years he found himself on the outer of Jose Mourinho’s squad and was able to go back to the blue half of Merseyside. So far this season it has been marked with a stunning hat-trick against West Ham including a goal from inside his own half.

LeBron James to Cleveland

Four years after crushing the soul of the Cavaliers fan base, causing many of them to burn his jersey in the street, the Akron Ohio native came back to the team who took him first overall in the 2003 NBA Draft. This time there was no self-serving special on TV, just a simple essay in Sports Illustrated explaining that it was time to come home and take care of unfinished business. That first season came so close to ending Cleveland’s half-century championship drought but the next year there would be no denying LeBron in his second year back. Claiming the title in dramatic circumstances in Game 7 over the Golden State Warriors.


Nick Foles to Philadelphia

While not necessarily a high profile move, Foles returned to the team that drafted him a year ago and it turned out to pay off for both the player and team. Signed to back up franchise quarterback Carson Wentz after seasons with the Rams and Chiefs, Foles was thrust into the action late in the regular season for the Eagles and was initially asked to just not screw up. In the final two games of the season he reminded everyone why he was the league’s passer rating leader in 2013 for the Eagles. On the biggest stage he duelled with Tom Brady and came out on top winning a classic Super Bowl and MVP honours for the big game.

Tim Cahill to Millwall

Between 1998 and 2004, Cahill made 217 appearances for English club Millwall before leaving to play for Everton over the next eight years. When his stint with Melbourne City ended abruptly in late 2017 Cahill was looking for a club and before long a return to Millwall was on the cards. Safe to say the fans are glad to have him back.

Wayne Bennett to Brisbane

Synonymous with rugby league in Queensland, master coach Wayne Bennett is now in his second stint as Broncos coach having returned in 2015 after six years away from the club he was the foundation coach of. After 532 games and 5 premierships, Bennett took the opportunity for a change of scenery guiding the Dragons and Knights for three seasons each. In mid-2014 it was announced that Bennett would be returning home for the following NRL season.

Darius Boyd to Brisbane

The jokes about Boyd following Bennett around have been done to death however his club career since his debut in 2006 mirrors that of his mentor. When Bennett came back to the Broncos in 2015, one of his acquisitions was Boyd who also came back to Brisbane that season. Last year he was named Broncos captain to cap his return to Red Hill.

Robin van Persie to Feynoord

His first stint with Feynoord, the club where he signed his first professional contract, ended in acrimonious circumstances after injuries and attitude issues saw him benched on numerous occasions. A move to Arsenal eventuated in 2004 where he won the first of many trophies and eventually matured into a world class centre forward. Ambition took him to Manchester United where he started off strongly before injuries derailed his stint there. After three years at Turkish club Fenerbahce Van Persie returned home to Feynoord on a three year deal and just this week he scored his first goal.

Brad Thorn to Brisbane and Crusaders

Apparently one homecoming was not enough for code hopping warrior Brad Thorn as he gave himself two throughout his phenomenal career. After leaving the Broncos in 2000 to pursue a career in rugby union, Thorn was lured back to the Broncos for three years, helping them to the 2006 NRL title. That stint ended at the end of 2007 when he went back to the Crusaders, becoming the second person to win domestic titles in Super Rugby and NRL, following on from Peter Ryan. He also helped the All Blacks end their World Cup drought in 2011. The already extraordinary career was extended with further rugby union contracts in Japan, Europe and with the Highlanders before his final game came at age 41 for Queensland Country.